The National Cancer Institute’s Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results (SEER) program provides a rich source of data on cancer incidence and management in the United States. The following data describing oral cavity cancer derive from SEER.
Incidence and trends. The population incidence of oral cavity cancer during years 2000-2010 was 4.3 cases per 100,000 per year. There has been a clear trend toward lower incidence over the past 30 years, with incidence at 7.4 per 100,000 in 1973 decreased to 4.2 per 100,000 in 2010. [Figure 1]
To put the incidence of oral cancer in context, compare the 2010 incidence with those of more common cancers of the lung, colon, breast, and melanoma. [Figure 2]
Age and sex distribution. Oral cavity cancer is more common among men than women, with population incidences of 5.8 per 100,000 men and 3.0 per 100,000 women. Of over 75,000 oral cancers registered in SEER, 36% occurred in women. Incidence rates also vary by age group, with the peak incidence at 60-69 years. [Figure 3]
Histology. The vast majority of oral cancers are squamous cell carcinomas which arise from the mucosal surfaces of the oral cavity. As described above, there are minor salivary glands dispersed throughout the surfaces of the oral cavity, as well as teeth, muscle, connective tissue, nerve tissue, etc., any of which could be the origin of a malignant neoplasm. Data from SEER indicate that 88% of oral cavity cancers are squamous cell carcinomas. Salivary gland cancers comprise 6% of the total, and other cancers, including sarcomas, melanomas, and lymphoid neoplasms, make up the remaining 6%. The figure shows distribution of histologic types. [Figure 4]